From Iceland — Iceland’s Designers March On

Iceland’s Designers March On

Published March 16, 2010

Iceland’s Designers March On

DesignMarch is happening again. Last year’s event was a great success and good times were had by all—the programme was large in scale and ambition and was well carried out by all accounts. This year’s program—a smattering of which may be viewed below—looks to be of the same calibre. We are pretty excited about the forthcoming bash: it means lounging around 101 for a weekend, scooping up hors d’ouevres and free wine and taking in some of the best Icelandic designers have to offer. We called up DesignMarch MD Halla Helgadóttir and got her to spill the beans.

“DesignMarch was held for the first time last year, during the immediate aftermath of our economic collapse,” says Halla. “One of the ongoing effects of kreppa is that the general public in Iceland shows more interest in design, and this was exemplified by its interest and attendance in DesignMarch. You could say that the project was timely; it was very well received by both designers, who put a lot of effort and energy into making it the success that it was.”

Is there anything you learn when you round up such a large number of participants to celebrate the goings-on in Icelandic design? How big of a community is the community?

There is a great community of designers operating in Iceland, with many different facets; everything from architects to jewellers. The programme is the result of collaboration between nine different groups and the breadth of Icelandic design and its strengths are revealed when all these people come together. The group is also energized when it gets a chance to sense its own size and magnitude.

Is the Icelandic public becoming more aware of Icelandic design and is that a stated goal of the festivities? How do you think local designers stand in the Icelandic market—do people seek them out?

I believe so. One of our main goals is reaching the public and connecting it with its design community. Icelandic design has been in the spotlight a lot recently and people’s understanding of and support the trade has been increasing.

How about it’s standing in global markets? Do Icelandic designers have a reputation abroad—do people use the term “Icelandic design” in the same sense they would discuss, say, “Danish design?”

Icelandic design is not widely known abroad. It’s still slowly but surely gaining recognition, and us at the Design Centre are working on helping it along, for instance by increasing our connection with the Scandinavian design community, which is very strong and rests on an old tradition. We have some well-known designers by now, but are still at the beginning stages here and are trying to work forward. The DesignMarch initiative is a part of that process.

Does Icelandic design have a shared aesthetic, work ethic or attitude? Is there a unifying factor amongst Icelandic designers that should be emphasised?

Many Icelandic designers are looking towards themes of sustainability and environmentalism, to be a bigger part of the local economy and of Iceland’s new image. As for aesthetics, they are hard to pin down at this point. I believe that is something that happens over time, and we haven’t reached that place yet. Originality and curiosity are maybe two things that one often finds in locals’ work. Innovation. But ask me in a few years, when we’re further along the path.

Tell us about this years’ programme. How long have you been preparing it? Is there a running theme or idea behind it?

We’ve been preparing the programme since early fall. The idea is to reflect the diversity and quality of Icelandic design. This is a design banquet, a fair in Reykjavík. There are exhibitions, installations, events, lectures and everything else to your heart’s delight. I would say it gives an excellent chance to stroll through downtown Reykjavík, enjoy life and the uplifting design scene.

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